Los Angeles Times Examines Health Care for Female Inmates in State Prisons
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday examined "a national movement gathering steam in California ... to reshape prisons to reflect differences between the sexes," including approaches to health care. Although male and female inmates have some similar complaints about prisons, their "complaints about medical care and concerns about children" differ, the Times reports.
According to the Department of Corrections, state prisons spend 60% more on health care per female inmate than male inmate. Reproductive health issues are one reason for the difference, but female inmates also have higher rates of HIV/AIDS and more mental health needs. Some female inmates claim they have not received a mammogram or Pap smear "in years," the Times reports.
Inmate advocates cite department regulations on childbirth as an example of "California's tendency to manage all inmates as a homogenous group," the Times reports. According to the Times, department regulations require that pregnant inmates have their ankles or wrists bound during labor, although they are located in a locked hospital ward guarded by several corrections officers. Dawn Davison, a warden at the California Institution for Women, said, "There is no woman in the throes of labor who is going to jump up and try to escape,"
A bill sponsored by Assembly member Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) would restrict the practice. The Assembly last month approved the legislation, which awaits action in the Senate. "For years people apparently felt that an inmate was an inmate was an inmate," Davison said, adding, "What makes us think that when a woman comes to prison and becomes an inmate, she becomes the same as a man?" (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 6/19).
The "sooner the courts take over" the state prison health care system, the "more quickly real reforms can begin," according to a Sacramento Bee editorial. The Youth and Adult Correctional Agency has failed to "carry out reforms in a timely fashion" and is "resigned to receivership," the editorial states, adding, "Only drastic change can improve the medieval health care conditions in California's prison system" (Sacramento Bee, 6/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.